“Witness to War: Truk Lagoon’s Master Diver Kimiuo Aisek,” a hard cover biography written by scuba diver Dianne M. Strong, Ed.D., Associate Professor of English & Applied Linguistics (retired), University of Guam
Witness to War: Truk Lagoon's Master Diver Kimiuo Aisek infuses Pacific war history with human drama. Seventeen-year old Kimiuo witnessed the bombs and torpedoes of Operation Hailstone that decimated the Imperial Japanese Navy's Fourth Fleet harbored in Truk. The two-day American attack in February 1944 on the Japanese mandated islands was fifteen times more powerful than that delivered by the Empire at Pearl Harbor. Japanese aircraft and more than forty ships were sent to the lagoon's bottom. Kimiuo watched them go down: the ships he had worked on, the men he had known.
Kimiuo's story is rich in discovery and adventure as his once again peaceful, Pacific islands emerged years later as a world-class dive site. Time and the unstoppable sea transformed the horrors of war into a surreal garden graveyard in the calm, warm waters. Kimiuo's compassion for the wartime Japanese officers he had befriended was transformed into a passion for diving on the wrecks on which they died. Truk Lagoon emerged as a Mecca for wreck divers, and Kimiuo its master diver and patriarch of the Truk diving industry.
Preserved below the lagoon's placid surface, the past beckoned: to WWII veteran and syndicated journalist Charles Hillinger, scuba pioneer-undersea world explorer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau, Skin Diver magazine Editor/Publisher Paul Tzimoulis, and underwater cinematographer Al Giddings (Search for the Shinohara Submarine, The Deep, The Abyss, Titanic). Truk's underwater time capsule lured the famed "doer"--deep ocean explorer and researcher--Dr. Sylvia Earle.
Internationally recognized underwater photographers Carl Roessler, Cathy Church, Stan Waterman, Chuck Nicklin and Jim Church also began recording Truk's undersea beauty. Around the world by word and image these Truk diving pioneers in the 1970s spread the news of this unique time capsule, what Tzimoulis had called "an underwater phenomenon without equal."
As the world arrived by 727 jet at his lagoon islands, Kimiuo, curious and eager to learn, was ready to share and to teach. Divers came from around the globe to explore Truk's underwater museum. Kimiuo guided them and made sure they stayed safe. When they were not underwater, Kimiuo entertained his guests by recalling his wartime memories of living in the Nan'yôJapanese mandated islands. But Kimiuo did even more. He forged lifelong friendships with the divers who had traveled to Truk as tourists. He now welcomed his “guests” as members of his extended island family.
With only three years of Japanese schooling but years of experience as a fisherman, merchant mariner and a fisheries diver, the former island boy founded the first dive operation in Micronesia. Celebrities and not-so-famous divers now realized a dream of a lifetime--to explore the once-forgotten "Ghost Fleet" of Truk Lagoon. Australia's funny man Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin came to Truk, as did French Connection's Gene Hackman, Bay Watch's David Hasselhoff, Titanic and Avatar’s James Cameron, United States Senator John McCain, and film producer Gale Ann Hurd (Armageddon, Aliens, Terminator). NASA's Dr. Kathy Sullivan who had made three space walking missions also explored the "inner space" of Truk Lagoon.
“Titanic” film producer and National Geographic Explorer James Cameron of Mariana Trench Challenger Deep fame (April 2012) was one of the last Truk Lagoon divers to enjoy Kimiuo’s company. Fifteen weeks before his death, Kimiuo treated his friend, Cameron, and fellow “Titanic” crew members to his birthday party at his family-owned business, Truk Blue Lagoon Resort, in September 2000. A former partner in a Truk liveaboard, Cameron loved Kimiuo, and loved exploring Truk Lagoon. Thus he readily agreed to provide the foreword to Kimiuo’s biography.
When Kimiuo died at age seventy-three in January 2001, Truk Lagoon had become not just a place renowned for its role in World War II history, but the world's top wreck diving destination. From the horror of war had come the birth of a unique underwater monument, and the legacy Kimiuo left for the people of his beloved lagoon.
Kimiuo Aisek - Born September 13, 1927 - Died January 4, 2001 - World War II Survivor, and Eyewitness to "Operation Hailstone" - A Great Fisherman and a Dive Master - The Founder of the Chuuk Underwater Diving Industry - Greatest Diver in the Pacific - A Great Man of the Sea with a Big Heart --- Akio Okada, 2001
On 26 January 2009, Kimuo Aisek became the first diver to be inducted posthumously into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame. Accepting the award on his behalf at Grand Cayman Island were two generations of Aiseks: his son, Gradvin, and grandson, Advin.
Please help me put this book into the hands of people who love Pacific history, scuba diving, or just a great yarn about a man of the sea. As Kimiuo’s “adopted American daughter,” I have been working on “Witness” since 1999, and its twelve chapters are almost finished. While I love my “research” dive trips to Truk Lagoon, my tax accountant says it’s time to get the book into print!
Since 2004 more than 500 divers and “friends” have returned the “Witness to War” promotional post cards to order copies. The Visitors Board of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) funded these cards. Now I need capital for the book’s printing, shipping, distributing and fulfilling your pledges.
Pledge today to support “Witness.” You will receive a hard cover copy of the book AND help commemorate two exciting events:
40th Anniversary of the founding of Blue Lagoon Dive Shop: November 13, 2013 – the first dive shop in Micronesia, still Aisek family-operated
70th Anniversary of “Operation Hailstone:” February 17-18, 2014 –Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher’s Task Force 58 American carrier-based attack on Truk Lagoon, headquarters of the Combined 4th Fleet of the Japanese Navy and Imperial Japanese Army
A portion of the book’s proceeds will support the Kimiuo Aisek Memorial Museum being built adjacent to Blue Lagoon Dive Shop in Chuuk, FSM (for air conditioning, maintenance and security).
My progress will be posted in my Kickstarter updates and on my “Witness” Facebook page. The incentives for you to pledge are as creative as the ways in which Mother Nature has enveloped the sunken ships. They come in a range to fit every budget, bibliophile to philanthropist.
As the US Territory of Guam lacks quality printing services, this limited edition hard cover must be printed off-island and shipped to Guam. To assure this commemorative book is on hand for the historic anniversaries, I am going full throttle to this dive site: Kimiuo’s story recorded in a 12-chapter hard cover book.
So don’t hesitate another minute to DIVE IN! Support “Witness” and help preserve Kimiuo Aisek’s legacy in a hard cover book. Kinisou Chapur! (That’s Chuukese for thank you)!
Why do I need $20,000?
Kickstarter is an all or nothing cash generator. Instead of browsing a bookstore, you have an opportunity to participate in the process of making history—Kimiuo’s history. The “tribe” I am trying to reach includes veterans of Truk diving, divers who still dream of exploring this underwater museum, and readers who are intrigued by the Pacific war. While the shipwrecks have been documented in books, magazines and videos, no one has recorded Kimiuo’s story.
My $20,000 budget will cover printing the hard cover book and shipping to Guam, 4% Gross Receipts Tax, preparing the camera-ready text and cover art, fulfilling all pledge rewards, and a stipend for a Chuukese University of Guam student to fill out the required Customs mailing forms and stand in line with these boxes at Guam’s understaffed US post offices. Careful packing will ensure that the hard cover edges of the book do not arrive bent. (“Been here, received that!”) Then I deduct 10% for Kickstarter and Amazon’s fees and I need $20,000.
Why do I hope to raise $20,000 in just 35 days? Because I want to get the money committed so I can finish the writing and locate color photographs of Kimiuo! Let’s get this book ready for those big anniversaries! I am counting on you to share this project on Facebook and even Twitter. Social networking has driven Kickstarter since 2009. As of August 5, 2012, Kickstarter had 492 publishing “live” projects, with successful publishing projects already having raised $12.14 million dollars! So DIVE IN and click the Back This Project green bar now! Kinisou Chapur, arigato gozaimus, thank you!
- (35 days)